As summer slowly winds to a close and the first day of remote learning remains weeks away (for many of us, anyway), it's easy--way too easy--to let the kids go nuts on their iPads while the grown-ups toil at home. Luckily, Google Assistant has a new feature to help keep young ones from disappearing into their bean bags. Slated to roll out starting today in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and India, the new Family Bell feature lets you create bells that sound on your Google smart speakers and displays, just like the bells at school. For example, you can day "Hey Google, create a Family Bell" to set reminder bells for breakfast, the start of a virtual camp day, recess in the backyard, or dinner time. You can ask Google Assistant to set a Family Bell on recurring days of the week, and in specific rooms.
The Cybovac E31 is at the top of a new line of robot vacuums from Kyvol, a brand from VanTop Technology & Innovation, a company known more for action and dashboard cameras than cleaning products. Nonetheless, this hybrid robot vacuum and mop impresses with its multiple cleaning modes, smart navigation and mapping, and a powerful max suction of 2200Pa. The E31 has a standard matte black finish with a tempered glass top. It measures about 12.5 inches in diameter and just under 3 inches high, making it slim enough fit under most furniture. There are Home and Clean/Pause buttons on top that change color to indicate charging and battery status, as well as a Wi-Fi signal indicator.
Razer just can't quit video games. The Blade Stealth was its exit strategy--or so I thought. Released in 2016, the Stealth was Razer's debut Ultrabook, and brought the larger Blade's sleek, MacBook-like aesthetics and build quality to people who just check their email and type up memos, or whatever. There are three Razer Blade Stealth models for 2020. They differ only in terms of the display, not the internals.
Reolink found a good niche with its first Argus, a truly wireless home security camera with just the essential features. Now on its third iteration, the camera has a new look and some smart additions, including an integrated spotlight and color night vision. Even better, Reolink has introduced these new twists without mucking with the camera's easy operation and simple feature set. With its modular size, white enclosure, and black face, the redesigned Reolink 3 resembles a more squat Arlo Pro 3. On the front are a status LED, a 230-lumen spotlight (something else it shares with the Arlo Pro 3), six infrared LEDs for night vision, a fixed focal length lens with a 120-degree field of view, daylight sensor, microphone, and a passive-infrared (PIR) sensor for motion detection. On the back are a battery status LED, micro-USB port, and speaker.
In February, Microsoft revealed that it would be slowly phasing out Cortana functionality in mobile and other devices, implying that the third-party Harman Kardon Invoke would be among them. On Friday, Microsoft clarified that these changes will occur in early 2021, including the Invoke--but the company will offer gift cards of up to $50 to sweeten the deal. Microsoft said Friday that it is eliminating the third-party Cortana skills--Cortana plug-ins that could be used to ask for a Fitbit activity summary, for example--by September 7. In January, 2021, the mobile Cortana app for iOS and Android will stop working. And in "early 2021," Microsoft says, the Cortana functionality for the Invoke will also cease to exist.
Motorized window treatments that can open and close on command, on a schedule, or even based on room occupancy are the ultimate finishing touch for any smart home. Like smart lighting, smart window treatments offer a host of benefits in terms of convenience, security, and energy conservation. There's a safety angle, too: There are no pull cords that pose a strangulation risk to children and pets. But the wow factor they deliver also renders them a luxury item--even deploying them one room at a time can cost thousands of dollars if each room has a lot of windows. Shades are a soft window covering, typically made of fabric.
Google Play Music is currently the best streaming music service for people who have their own music collections. The service lets users upload 50,000 of their own music files, then access the audio on a wide range of streaming devices. It's a great way to access your own music files from anywhere, and it doesn't cost a dime. Unfortunately, the free ride is just about over. At the end of this year, Google will discontinue Google Play Music and push users over to YouTube Music as a replacement.
Samsung's phones may be the among the most popular Android handsets, but they're also the furthest from Google's vision, with their own app store, UI, and digital assistant. But with the launch of the Galaxy Note 20 just a week away, a new report from Bloomberg suggests that Google is looking to rein in some of Samsung's freedom. According to correspondence between the two companies, Google is looking to take back search on Samsung's handsets, the foundation for everything Android does. The two companies are discussing a deal that would "promote Google's digital assistant and Play Store for apps" on Galaxy devices. That would be a major change over the current system.
Ecobee builds our absolute favorite smart thermostat, and its new SmartCamera with voice-control security camera is just as innovative. But this is a super-competitive space, and Ecobee doesn't bring quite enough to the table to justify this camera's $179 price tag (and not-so-optional subscription). This camera can also act as the hub of a broader home security system, however, so we'll publish a separate review of that entire ecosystem soon. This story focuses on the SmartCamera's abilities as a home security camera and an Alexa smart speaker. The Honeywell Home Smart Security Camera from Resideo does the same trick, and that device has been on the market since late 2018 (we reviewed it as part of Resideo's home security bundle).
Considering the JBL Live 300TWS's price and relatively simple design, I expected an equally simple experience--but I shouldn't have judged a pair of true wireless earbuds on its subdued looks. A couple of weeks on, the Live 300TWS's features still dazzle me, and the music quality is far better than I expected from buds in this price range. The 2.7-inch-wide case alone looks as if it could come from a premium set of earbuds. Smooth, compact, and pocketable, its notification lights have a chic air reminiscent of luxury goods: A ring around the USB-C port along the bottom pulses white while the earbuds charge inside--the better to see where to stick the plug in low light--and it shifts to red once the cable is in. The act of opening the case could be more elegant, though; eventually, I fumbled far less with the lid after learning to pull it up from the sides.